As a vegan, I miss jello salads, but who wants to eat animal bone gelatin? Ick. Then I saw Susan’s recipe for Red, White, and Blue Fruit Terrine on FatFree Vegan Kitchen. It was so beautiful that I had to try it. Her recipe called for agar powder. I had never used agar until this recipe, and now I am a huge fan!
I did a little research and here is my “Ode to Agar-Agar”:
Agar-agar is an odorless, tasteless, vegetable gelatin made from certain species of red algae. It has been used in Japan since the 15th century. Available flaked, powdered, or in bars, agar-agar can be used as a gelling agent to make jellies, puddings, custards, etc.
So what is up with saying agar twice? It comes from the Malay word agar-agar meaning jelly. Many refer to it simply as “agar,” but I found a website that described different types of agars used in laboratories, and they were just plain nasty, so using the full word “agar-agar” is a good thing.
Not only is agar-agar a great vegan substitute for gelatin, but agar-agar gels more firmly than gelatin, and it sets and melts at a higher temperature. Agar-agar gels at approximately 88ºF, but once formed, it does not melt until 136ºF. Your “jello” mold will stay firm and beautiful at the picnic even in the summer heat.
Agar-agar is considered a health food. It is comprised of over 80% soluble fiber. It is high in iodine, contains trace amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium, and is calorie free! The “kanten diet” (kanten is the Japanese word for agar-agar) recommends eating agar as a simple way to feel full. It works by expanding in the stomach, which means you eat less. And a study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism showed the agar diet resulted in marked weight loss due to the reduced calorie intake.
To use agar-agar, add it to your liquid of choice (usually fruit juice), bring it to a gentle boil, then simmer while stirring until it completely dissolves (about 5 minutes). The liquid will gel as it cools.
Here’s a general guide on how to use agar in recipes:
- Substitute agar powder for gelatin using equal amounts.
- 1 tablespoon of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 teaspoon of agar powder.
- To set 1 cup of liquid, use 1 teaspoon of agar powder or 1 tablespoon of agar-agar flakes.
- It is important to note that more acidic foods may require a higher agar to liquid ratio.
As for the Red, White, and Blue Fruit Terrine, I followed Susan’s recipe exactly except I couldn’t find agar powder, so I bought Eden Foods’ Agar Agar Sea Vegetable Flakes. I used 2 tablespoons of flakes for the recipe. With agar-agar, there are endless possibilities of pretty fruit dishes and vegan jello recipes! YUM!!